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StockBeat: Micro Focus Shows Software Can Be Hard, Too

By Geoffrey Smith

Investing.com -- The received wisdom in business is that hardware is hard. But software isn’t finding things much easier right now, either.

Shares in Micro Focus International (LON:MCRO), a London-listed group that caters to large companies’ IT needs, fell by as much as a third on Thursday morning after another profit warning, before recovering to trade down only 25% by 5 AM ET (0900).

That was firmly at the bottom of a FTSE 100 that was up 1.0%, up in line with other European markets on hopes for a resumption of trade talks between the U.S. and China. The benchmark Stoxx 600 was up 0.9%, while the German DAX was up 1.0% and the FTSE MIB again led the way with a 1.8% gain after news that the Five Star Movement and Democratic Party will after all form a new government, removing the risk of snap elections for another few months at least.

Admittedly, much of Micro Focus' (NYSE:MFGP) woes are unique to itself and stem from a misjudged acquisition of parts of HP Enterprise back in 2017. The company had already admitted last year that the integration was running a year behind schedule, and the latest update admitted to “weak sales execution”.

However, it also flagged a problem that’s spreading fast among the computer nerd sector: “a deteriorating macro environment resulting in more conservatism and longer decision-making cycles within our customer base.”

Or in layman’s terms: businesses don’t invest when trade wars and Brexit mean that you can’t plan beyond the next Presidential tweet or the next twist in an endless British political psychodrama. Business investment in Micro Focus’s home market of the U.K. has only risen in one of the last six quarters, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Micro Focus now expects its revenue adjusted for foreign exchange fluctuations to fall by between 6% and 8% for the year through October, rather than the 4% to 6% drop it previously expected. It’s also launching a strategic review of operations.

The warning comes only two days after shares in U.S.-based Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK) fell 10% after it cut guidance for the current quarter and year citing the impact of the U.S.-China trade war.

Other software companies are showing signs of struggling too: SAP (DE:SAPG), Germany’s most valuable company, has fallen 13% in the last two months, giving up most of the gains it made since activist investor Elliott Management took a stake in it. Software AG (DE:SOWGn), a German midcap, is also down 20% since the start of July after also downgrading its guidance. France’s Dassault Systemes (PA:DAST) is down 14% in the same timeframe, as is the FTSE All Share Software&Computer Services index.

The Stoxx 600, meanwhile, has lost only 4.1% in that time.

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